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Use of medical marijuana in pediatric care involving serious illnesses

Though marijuana can help relieve symptoms of certain medical conditions, its use is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government and drug regulation authorities. The plant that is believed to cure a range of illnesses has often been criticized for its adverse health effects including breathing problems, damage to learning and cognitive thinking, and distortions in perception and senses.

Despite legalization in 29 American states, District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, marijuana continues to be surrounded by controversies. One such contentious use of pot is its use in the supportive care of children with serious illnesses like cancer. Although the use of medical marijuana in such cases continues to be controversial, a recent research suggested that while most pediatric oncology providers (92 percent) were willing to help children suffering from cancer access medical marijuana, the absence of sufficient standards seems to be an important barrier in their recommendation and successful use. The study has been published in the journal Pediatrics in December 2017.

Lack of standards related to dosage, potency and formulation of medical marijuana were recognized as the biggest barriers. According to co-author, Dr. Kelly Michelson, MD, critical care physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, “It is not surprising that providers who are eligible to certify for medical marijuana were more cautious about recommending it, given that their licensure could be jeopardized due to federal prohibition.”

More research required for effective use

The study is the first of its kind to examine how health care professionals handled the requests for medical marijuana. For the study, a 32-item cross-sectional survey that checked the attitudes and approaches related to medical marijuana was sent to 654 pediatric oncology providers (nurses, physicians and other providers) based out of Washington, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Out of nearly 300 people who responded, about a third of all the providers reported receiving at least one request for prescribing medical marijuana and 90 percent were willing to help a pediatric patient get access to it. According to one of the researchers Dr. Joanne Wolfe, “You have this sense as a provider, we use the term anecdotally, that there are more and more people asking about it.”

Additionally, out of those who responded, the majority (63 percent) was not concerned about substance abuse in children who were prescribed medical marijuana while almost half said that the biggest barrier to prescribing it revolved around lack of standards related to its dosage and formulation. However, in general, most of those who replied felt that medical marijuana could be an option for children at the end of their lives.

According to Wolfe, more research is warranted in assessing the effective use of medical marijuana as there is high expectation among families that the clinical use of the drug can increase life expectancy of their children who are battling various types of cancers.

Understanding medical marijuana

Medical marijuana can be used as a whole or in the form of basic extracts in order to treat symptoms of various illnesses and other conditions. However, it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though the plant contains certain chemicals that may help treat a number of health conditions, not enough large-scale trials have been conducted to show that its benefits outweigh the health risks.

On one hand where guided use of the drug under medical supervision can provide relief to patients, its long-term use and misuse can have disastrous effects leading to physical, mental and behavioral changes. Addiction to the pot during early stages of life can increase the risk of schizophrenia and impact cognitive skills.

Seek help for addiction problems

If you or your loved one is addicted to any drug and looking for support, the Florida drug addiction helpline is an ideal resource to get all the relevant information. For any questions related to addiction, its symptoms and treatment options, our representatives can assist you. They can connect you to some of the finest treatment providers in Florida. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline (855) 982-2401 or chat online with an advisor to locate the best drug rehab in Florida and begin your journey to a drug-free life.